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Bus Back From Boot Camp
Keegan sat alone somewhere near the middle between Jake and Josh and some PFC’s. They’d been on the road for about 7 hours and Keegan couldn’t recall the PFC’s behind him even breathing let alone talking. Two weeks of boot camp can tire out a man but they didn’t seem to be physically weary. On the other hand, Josh and Jake wouldn’t shut up. They went on and on about a drawn out grenade simulation they’d been subjected to before they left. Josh was pudgy for a soldier, about 6’2’’ and 265 pounds. He sported a round face with chubby cheeks and a mess of high and tight brown hair. His partner, being Jake, was skinny standing at 6’’ with baby blue eyes he couldn’t help but stare at. No lie. He loved to look at himself. Between their fits of annoying laughter, he would gaze at himself in the window. A real damsel.
Keegan groaned and resisted the urge to just pop their heads off and be done with it, but by hour 9 they’d gone to sleep. Actually, everyone had, everyone but him and the vets behind them. They were both a rank below him but they’d accomplished something he hadn’t. They’d been deployed. Their unit went right to Iraq and people said they weren’t the same me when they came back. Or at least, that’s what people said made them so quiet and close knit.
Once everyone else was asleep, they woke up. They were living, contrary to common belief. Keegan listened. They talked about ordinary things: Families they missed, wives, hating work, and the economy. The wife part was a little weird. They were both his age, 21…how did they have wives? He outranked them but they had wives! Apparently he’d gone wrong somewhere. Keegan’s phone vibrated, and he picked it up. It wasn’t a call though, it was a reminder.
“Ahh, dang.” He hissed. The row behind him fell quiet. Keegan quickly dialed.
“Hello? Tzi…hey, yeah I know it’s late. Look I’m really sorr—yeah…I was at AT and I couldn’t—heh, yeah I guess. Of course, I wouldn’t miss it…we you won’t mind a belated present would you? Haha alright…I’ll see you soon. Goodnight…I lov—” Keegan drew the phone back, the call had ended. For about the millionth time he’d missed his chance and of all the days…he’s missed her birthday.
For along time it was quiet. Nothing but rubber on the road as the bus full of soldiers drove home. Nothing but snores from the peanut gallery upfront and silence from behind. Tzipora was…not his girlfriend, or his fiancé or his wife…she was actually his roommate’s sister…that he happened to love. Keegan knew she probably saw him as a brother, but after a while a sibling relationship didn’t seem to fit anymore. He saw her like no brother should see his sister.
He loved her smile, her long brown hair that she failed to do things with, the fact that she hated to wear shoes and would go everywhere barefoot. He loved the weird gold-green tint of her eyes that were beautifully huge and her sarcastic nature to use big words that sometimes even she didn’t know what they meant. He loved everything about her…except that she dated crappy guys. Her last boyfriend had been a pothead and Keegan had had to stoop to the level of wishing he was him just because that jerk could hold the girl he loved.
Instead of going to a community college with her brother and him, she was accepted early action to an uppity university were she…enjoyed life. She didn’t necessarily excel because she was lazy, but she was amazing at what she did do.
It was her 19th birthday and…he’d missed it. He gave himself a mental beat down. How could he have forgotten—
“You forgot her birthday?” Someone asked. Keegan twisted around and between the seats he saw the two vets peering at him.
“Yeah…” He sighed.
“My wife would kill me.” One of them chuckled.
“She’s not my wife.” Keegan said.
“Oh, you’re girlfriend?”
“Friend then.” One said. The one on the left. “Friend that you wished was more.” Keegan hesitated.
“Look,” The left guy leaned forward, “You know our business. You’re higher than us, but we know some things. You know that being a soldier is tough and sometimes we don’t make it—”
“What are you saying?” Keegan cut him off.
“I’m saying…hurry up and tell her before you can’t anymore.” He nodded and leaned back and took up his own conversation with his buddy. Keegan wanted to ask him what the heck he knew about it but…the guy was right. He was just…right. Keegan turned back around and leaned against the bumping window. It was just a fact of life. Either he would die or she would be gone—
No…that would not happen. Keegan whipped out his phone again.
“You just called. What is it?” She slurred. She was still half asleep.
“I love you.” Keegan said.